Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Occupy Tampa to hold regional General Assembly this Saturday

Posted By on Tue, May 29, 2012 at 12:29 PM

OccupyTampaJune_2.jpg
As summer approaches, stories are appearing in the press about the current state of the Occupy Wall Street movement and its affiliated groups throughout the country, eight months after Zuccotti Park in Manhattan became the epicenter for activists around the globe.

On the Al Jazeera website, Arun Gupta writes "What happened to the Occupy movement?" In Rolling Stone, Mark Binelli has written a piece called "The Battle For the Soul of Occupy." (The story isn't available yet online, so I'm unable to provide a link.)

Meanwhile members of Occupy Tampa have announced that they will hold a regional General Assembly this Saturday at Lykes Gaslight Park, the site where the group held its initial rallies last fall.

Invited to this session are Occupy movements from other Bay area jurisdictions such as Sarasota, Bradenton/Manatee County, New Port Richey, Lakeland and St.Peterburg.

Possible topics of discussion (according to occupytampa's website) include the future of the movement, sustaining the movement and sharing solutions to commonly identified problems.

After first holding protests at Lykes Gaslight, Occupy Tampa moved to Curtis Hixon Park last October, where it remain until near the end of 2011. Tampa police refused to let the protesters camp overnight in the park, but did permit them to sleep on the sidewalk in front of Curtis Hixon. That led to a number of arrests and confrontations with police officers. At the end of 2011, Occupy moved to West Tampa, after Joe Redner offered his Voice of Freedom Park on Main Street for protesters to build an encampment.

In his piece, Gupta writes that one reason the Occupy movement has floundered in recent months is a lack of public space, with most of the encampments now history after big-city mayors ended such occupations — though that has not been the problem in Tampa.

The big question for Occupy is how it can build a dual system of power, as Egyptian activists did over years with revitalized labour organizing, a national anti-police brutality movement and politicised youth and women in micro-enterprises that populate urban areas. This requires organisation, but it also gets back to the question of space. Alienation, fragmentation and suspicion is so pervasive in US society that people need secure areas where they can take the time to share stories, to listen and debate, create bonds, forge trust and take action.

The places where Americans can and do gather in large numbers, such as parks, squares, factories, shopping centres, the workplace, stadiums, schools and places of worship are almost all privatized and subject to strict legal and physical regulation. Nonetheless, Occupy's future success is based on finding forms of space where it can reproduce itself.

In Rolling Stone, Binelli writes about the frustration of Occupy members with the "endless general assembly meetings, in which anyone who showed up had an equal right to speak and consensus decision-making became an impractical and dispiriting slog." He goes on to write:

As one of the mildest winters in recent memory wafted on, Occupy, incredibly, seemed to fade away. Some of the sympathetic observers who'd watched in awe as the activists so savvily reclaimed the terms of debate felt betrayed by the government's apparent lack of staying power. It wasn't fair, of course, to demand instant, structural fortitude of what was, by definition, a leaderless and vaguely defined uprising. Still, the infighting and an absence of discipline emerging from OWS felt symptomatic, to some, of the left's perennial ability to internally debate itself out of seemingly unsquanderable opportunities."

As the Tampa chapter meets up with its Bay area colleagues this weekend, one thing that they have going for them as opposed to every other local group is the fact that they will play host to thousands of protesters (the media keeps tossing up the number of 15,000, though some organizers say less) arriving in August to show their displeasure with Mitt Romney and the Republican Party.

Saturday's General Assembly is scheduled to begin at 12 noon at Lykes Gaslight Park in Tampa.

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